Category Archives: young adult

Tales From Big Spirit (Series) by David Alexander Robertson

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I have been a fan of David Alexander Robertson since I read his 7 Generations graphic novel series a few years ago. Recently I stumbled upon his graphic novel series for a younger audience called “Tales from Big Spirit”. Each book is about a prominent First Nations person from history and teaches the reader about their contributions using beautifully drawn graphics (there are a few different illustrators for the series). Although intended for children, I as an adult really enjoyed reading the books and learned a few new things.

The first title I read was “The Peacemaker- Thanadelathur” (illustrated by Wai Tien). This book teaches the reader about Thanadelathur, a remarkable Dene woman who helped make peace between the Cree and Dene peoples in the 1700s. She was originally captured by some Cree people, and managed to escape after the winter had passed. Nearly starving in the process, she was discovered by some geese hunters from the Hudson’s Bay Company and she agreed to become an interpreter for the Hudson’s Bay Company to establish trade agreements. After some difficulty, she proved the be successful, and Thanadelathur is still remembered today through oral tradition and the Hudson Bay Company’s records (quite a rarity for a First Nations woman at that time!)

Second was “The Poet-Pauline Johnson” (illustrated by Scott B. Henderson). This book introduces Pauline Johnson, a Mohawk poet who was quite famous for her poetry reciting, especially “A Cry from an Indian Wife” which told of the Battle of Cut Knife during the Riel Rebellion. Being half European and half Mohawk, she worked towards reconciliation towards those groups of people, and her works have been honored by different groups yesterday and today.

Third was “The Ballad of Nancy April- Shawnadithit” (illustrated by Scott B. Henderson) which tells about the extinction of the Beothuk people in Newfoundland in the 19th century. They became instinct due to various reasons, including loss of food sources due to competition with other groups in the area, death due to European diseases (especially tuberculosis), and violent encounters from other groups. Shawnadithit was the last known full-blooded Beothuk person until her death in 1829, and because of her, some history of the Beothuk people survive today.

Last was “The Scout-Tommy Prince” (illustrated by Scott B. Henderson). This installment teaches about Sgt. Tommy Prince, the most decorated First Nations Soldier in Canada, who served in both World War II and the Korean War. As a young man, he spent a lot of time outdoors hunting and doing other skills, and he joined the army cadets when he was a teenager. Despite facing discrimination, he applied for recruitment several times until he was accepted in 1940. He volunteered to the parachute unit, being one of few who passed training. Later on he did many dangerous tasks; including scoping out and reporting on German assembly points (he laid a 1,400 meter long telephone wire and attached it to a phone in an abandoned farmhouse to do so!). After the wars, he became known once again for saving a man from drowning in Winnipeg. Since his passing, many schools and awards have been named after Prince to honor him.

In total, this has been a wonderful group of graphic novels that taught me a bit of Canadian History. Pauline Johnson’s writings are officially on my to-read list, and I have done further readings on the other individuals.  I truly recommend this collection for those young and old. These titles are available by Interlibrary Loan.

 

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The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

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cover art of The CallThis tense, fast paced thriller asks the question, what would happen if the gods and goddess of mythology returned to the modern world with their hearts full of vengeance?  O’Guilin has taken modern Ireland and cut if off from the rest of the world, due to the magic of the Sidhe.  These were the mythical fairy folk of the Emerald Isle and of Scotland, physically beautiful but cruel and capricious. The Sidhe were tricked by the ancient Irish into a hellish netherworld and now are seeking their revenge by abducting their adolescents into the Greylands to be mutilated or killed.

Twenty five years have passed since the horror began when without warning young people began disappearing suddenly for a little over three minutes of our time but a full day in the alternative world, during which they are hunted by the Sidhe. Their chances are surviving are slim at best and should they return alive, the survivors are forever altered both physically and mentally. The young are now sent away to school to be taught and toughened for when their “call” comes.

The story focuses on Nessa who is not expected to survive due to a childhood bout of polio which has damaged her legs, but not destroyed her strength or will to live. She and the other residents of the Boyle school are simply ordinary teenagers forced to fight for their lives and many of the characters the reader comes to care about meet tragic fates.

The author O’Guilin mixes moments of humour with moments of anguish, loyalty with betrayal, desire with scorn, each with a deft hand.  Despite the overall darkness as the country slips into subsistence living when the doom of the Sidhe takes hold, there is a sense of hope and defiance in spite of the odds.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami “Life is Beautiful, Messy, Strange, and Chaotic”

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norwegian wood

 

Haruki Murakami is a difficult author to write about. He is one of my favourite writers, who surprises and delights me each time I begin a new novel of his. If there is one commonality that ties his novels together, it’s the fact that his body of fiction defies categorization. Murakami frequently writes about people’s intimate life experiences while they deal with love, loss, growth, pain and revelation. Often these stories are set within a certain point in history, which adds a human dimension to our understanding of that time.

Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” is just that novel. Published in 1987 to critical acclaim, “Norwegian Wood” has been cited as his best novel. “Norwegian Wood” tells the story of Toru, an introspective young man studying in Tokyo during the sixties. The story follows Toru’s coming of age while he navigates his new life in Tokyo as well as coming to terms with the unexpected death of his best friend, Kizuki. As Toru tries to understand Kizuki’s senseless passing as well as determine what path, both personally and academically to take, he rekindles his friendship with Kizuki’s girlfriend, Naoko.

Toru and Naoko soon realize that their feelings for each goes beyond friendship, which is further complicated by Naoko’s own inability to cope with Kizuki’s death. Naoko’s fragility makes it difficult to maintain a relationship with Toru, who eventually ends up falling equally in love with his classmate, Midori. Midori is radically different from Naoko, and Toru finds himself torn between the two loves of his life. As the plot delves deeper into Toru’s romantic and existential pain, Murakami effectively conjures the mood and atmosphere of the sixties, complete with historic and pop culture references.

The details of Toru’s experiences ultimately add up to Murakami’s sentiment that life can be beautiful and sad, tragic and unpredictable. Each and every one of us is on our own paths seeking truth in our lives and relationships. As we follow and listen to Toru’s first person narrative, Murakami reveals not only Toru’s thoughts, anxieties, and questions about life, but our own.

 

 

 

 

 

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

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Popular perception is that Westerns are out of style for readers. Despite this, Western influences have been appearing in young adult books in recent years. There have been westerns with steampunk elements, those set in dystopian worlds, and even one with zombies. However, Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman includes no extras – only the classic settings and tropes. The book opens with, “It weren’t no secrets Pa owned the best plot of land ‘long Granite Creek, and I reckon that’s why they killed him.” Written in a dialect liberally sprinkled with ain’t, yer, and gotta, Vengeance Bound was my first real Western read and I was not originally convinced I was going to enjoy it. Luckily, it is a highly entertaining mystery adventure with propulsive plotting that kept me glued to the page.

Similar in theme to Cormac McCarthy’s True Grit, Vengeance Road follows a young woman thirsting for revenge. After her father is viciously murdered by the Rose Riders gang, eighteen year old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and sets off to track them down. Intelligent, wily, and ruthless, Kate dispatches her first villain ten pages in with a cold-blooded shot to the heart, and steels herself against sentiment throughout the book despite her growing connections to allies met along her journey. Cowboys, grizzled prospectors, a possibility of romance and an Apache guide play important roles, but the core of the story is Kate’s discovery of her father’s lies and family connection to a legendary gold mine. Featuring a journal with mysterious clues, genuine villainy and heroics, and an entirely feminist and capable heroine, adult Western fans and fans of strong female heroines alike should look past the “young adult” label and give Vengeance Bound a look.

Vengeance Road

 

Young Adult Titles Inspired by Shakespeare (taken from the TBPL Teen Tumbler) Romeo and Juliet

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r and j poster

 

Inspired by Romeo & Juliet

Fielder, Lisa. Romeo’s Ex: Rosaline’s Story

Gabel, Claudia. Romeo & Juliet & Vampires

Jay, Stacey. Juliet Immortal & Romeo Redeemed

Marquardt, Marie. Dream Things True

Selfors, Suzanne. Saving Juliet

Serle, Rebecca. When You Were Mine

Taub, Melinda. Still Star-Crossed

Trout, Jenny.  Such Sweet Sorrow

Young Adult Titles Inspired by Shakespeare (taken from the TBPL Teen Tumbler) Assorted Plays

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Inspired by The Tempest: Tempestuous by Kim Askew; Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston; Rough Magic by Caryl Mullin

Inspired by the Taming of the Shrew: The Taming by Eric Walters & Teresa Totem

Inspired by Twelfth Night: The Fool’s Girl by Celia Rees

Inspired by Othello: Exposure by Mal Peet

Inspired by King Lear: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley*

Inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Love in Idleness by Amanda Craig*

Inspired by A Winter’s Tale: Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E K Johnston

Inspired by multiple texts: Wise Children* by Angela Carter; Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher; Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev; Fool* by Christopher Moore

Featuring Shakespeare himself as a character: Shakespeare’s Stealer series by Gary Blackwood; King of Shadows by Susan Cooper; Love Disguised by Lisa Klein

ones with * are adult books

Young Adult Titles Inspired by Shakespeare (taken from the TBPL Teen Tumbler) Hamlet

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Based on Hamlet poster

hamlet poster

 

Inspired by Hamlet

Klein, Lisa. Ophelia

Marsden, James. Hamlet

Trout, Jenny. Such Sweet Sorrow

Winters, Cat. The Steep and Thorny Way